Los Angeles Clippers: Memphis
April, 29, 2012
By Arash Markazi | ESPNLosAngeles.com
Los Angeles Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro, scratching the five o’clock shadow he has been growing since before the playoffs, smiled as he talked about his team’s lack of postseason experience before Sunday’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies.
“Guys think they're ready, but they're not,” Del Negro said. “It will be a different level. It will be a different intensity, and when you're in a series and teams take away certain things, your weaknesses show more.”
Well, for three and half quarters, Del Negro was right. The Clippers weren’t ready. In fact, they looked like a team that wasn’t even ready to play a high school team, let alone the franchise’s first playoff game in six years.
The Clippers were down 27 points with about two minutes left in the third quarter and down 95-71 with less than eight minutes left in the game. Del Negro was all but ready to grab one of the white T-shirts that the team handed to Memphis fans and wave it at the officials to put an end to the game before Chris Paul begged him not to.
“At the end of the third quarter Coach took me out and I went nuts,” Paul said. “I said, 'Coach give us a chance! Give us a chance!' He puts us back in there and [Eric] Bledsoe got going, Nick Young was amazing and Reggie Evans gets the game ball, he was unreal.”
Del Negro had already seen Caron Butler fracture his left hand late in the third quarter and watched his former player Derrick Rose tear his ACL in the final minute of Chicago’s playoff opening win on Saturday. He wanted to sit his starters down but he listened to Paul and gave them a few more minutes. Suddenly, Memphis’ 21-point lead was whittled down to 16. Then 10. Then, well, you know.
The Clippers closed out the game on a 28-3 run to beat the Memphis, 99-98, and complete the greatest comeback in NBA playoff history and the greatest win in Clippers history.